Review: Demon in the Wood

Series: Grishaverse #0
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Artist: Dani Pendergast
Adapter: Kyla Vanderklugt
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Released: September 27, 2022
Received: Own

The fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse should make a point of picking up Demon in the Wood. We’ve all been waiting for this story – we just didn’t realize it. Every villain has an origin story. Sometimes those stories are wrapped up in the main plot. Other times they are tucked away, buried under centuries of trauma and history.

The latter is true for the Darkling – the shadow summoner. Even as a young boy, he had taken up (and discarded) many names. All in the name of safety, ironically enough. For the moment, he is Eryk, a Grisha looking for a haven for the winter.

He and his mother have traveled far, hoping to find safety and knowledge. Eryk needs time to master his powers, and that means his mother must keep him safe in the meantime. It’s a challenge, given that they live in a world that despises and hunts Grisha.

Writing

You know, it never occurred to me that I wanted to see an origin story for the Darkling. I had felt like his backstory was evident enough. Well, evident following everything that happened. But the Netflix adaptation made me realize there was more to be told. Okay, the announcement of Demon in the Wood helped me realize this. I realized that I wanted to learn more about the Darkling’s childhood. And boy, did I learn a few things!

Demon in the Wood is a brief look into the life of Eryk. It may only cover a few days of his life, but it goes a long way in helping us understand how he came to be the man we all know (I would say love, but that is only true for some readers).

The storytelling in Demon in the Wood is perfect. Given how much readers already know of this world, there was no need to take us through the Grisha process (or how they’re treated). Instead, we’re allowed to see it all play out carefully. Painfully.

Naturally, Demon in the Wood does get a bit dark before it concludes. You can even tell exactly how it’s going to go. But it’s like watching a horror movie – you can’t bring yourself to look away. You can only watch in horror, wishing you had been in a position to stop things from playing out this way.

Artwork

First, let’s talk about that cover! Demon in the Wood features a stunning cover. And I’m not just saying that because it has several shades of purple (though that doesn’t hurt. If you know anything about the Darkling, it’s a pretty evocative cover. You can tell who it is and how old he is (in a general sense) and therefore understand the title’s implications.

On the inside, the artist, Dani Pendergast, did a brilliant job of bringing two well-known characters to life. Even with such an age gap, it’s clear who they are. I enjoyed seeing the younger versions of these characters. Likewise, it was interesting to see what other characters appeared throughout.

I adore the use of solid colors for backdrops. This wasn’t universal for the whole graphic novel, but it did a great job of forcing our eyes to focus on specific scenes or details. This added to the sense of foreshadowing.

Conclusion

I’ll say it again: if you love the Grishaverse, you must pick up Demon in the Wood. You don’t need to read this graphic novel to understand anything else in the world, but it adds some backstory and context, which alone makes it worthwhile.

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